The 10 most renowned portrait photographers in the world have been able to capture the raw beauty of our fellow human beings. From Steve McCurry to Lisa Kristine, these photographers have made a name for themselves by taking stunning photos of people from all walks of life. Rehahn specializes in photographing Vietnam, Rajasthan and Cuba, while Eric Lafforgue has a story for every person he has ever photographed. Manny Librodo's photos are pure works of art, and Lisa Kristine is a humanitarian photographer who documents indigenous cultures in more than 100 countries.
Annie Leibovitz is renowned for her exceptional work photographing celebrity portraits, and Steve McCurry is an American photojournalist who has worked for National Geographic and has won countless awards for his photojournalism and his coverage of several wars throughout history. One of the most iconic portraits of all time comes from Steve McCurry, known as “The Afghan Girl”. Dorothea Lange was instrumental in documenting the Depression Era, while Angus McBean is remembered for his portraits of celebrities in the early 20th century. Diane Arbus is one of the most unique portrait photographers in existence, and Philippe is the photographer responsible for some of the most recognizable portraits of the 20th century.
Henri Cartier-Bresson wasn't primarily a portrait photographer, so his omission from this list is perfectly justified, as is that of Ansel Adams, who did some great portraits but was mainly recognized for his genius as a landscape photographer. But I have in my possession what I consider to be the best portrait photo ever taken, the Mona Lisa of all portrait photos. Called the catoptric image of the mind of the metaphysicist, it only took 30 years to finally achieve it. For me, a great “portrait” seeks, and succeeds in, telling the story of the individual or individuals in the photograph. Annie Leibovitz is an incredible photographer and has done a lot of amazing portraits, but the image of Leonardo DiCaprio with a swan around his neck doesn't tell me anything about him.
These supposedly great photos are only okay, with the exception of the photo of a cowboy, which is truly exceptional. When you look at these portraits, you know that you are looking at the “souls” of these people. Whether you're seeing despair, fear, resignation or strength, you know that you're seeing the emotions of the subject, not what the photographer or art director was trying to convey. In between you have the photos of Edward S., which are great movies but often straddle the story of the individual and telling the story he wanted to tell. Dorothea Lange belongs to a separate category; none of her works shown here are portrait photography.
They are photos that show individual emotions and connections but they all have a broader backdrop and are meant to tell a larger story. What differentiates Lange's photos from those of McCurry is the context. McCurry isolates his subjects to such an extent that even if one has the feeling that the portrait takes place in the midst of dramatic events, those events are hidden and only the individual shines through them. Lange puts everything in context to tell a larger story. I love Diane Arbus' work; there are so many different readings and conjectures that can be made from her portraits which for me are full of parts that are missing - gaps for you to fill. I don't hold on to accusations of voyeurism on his part; I think he did identify with his subjects and this is what makes him one of the best portrait photographers in the world.
Whether it's Steve McCurry's iconic “Afghan Girl” or Lisa Kristine's humanitarian photography documenting indigenous cultures around the world, each image tells its own unique story about its subject. In conclusion, there are many great portrait photographers out there who have made their mark on history with their work. From Steve McCurry's iconic “Afghan Girl” to Lisa Kristine's humanitarian photography documenting indigenous cultures around the world, each image tells its own unique story about its subject. Annie Leibovitz is renowned for her exceptional work photographing celebrity portraits while Dorothea Lange was instrumental in documenting the Depression Era. Diane Arbus is one of the most unique portrait photographers in existence while Philippe is responsible for some of the most recognizable portraits of the 20th century.
Ultimately though, it's up to you to decide who you think is truly worthy of being called “the best professional photographer”.